It's always sad to see a retail business shut down, eliminating local jobs and leaving a store vacant, but area residents can save some money at the going-out-of-business sales that result.
In South Carolina and elsewhere, Payless shoe stores are closing. In Mount Pleasant, the last Bi-Lo grocery store in the town is shutting down. In West Ashley, home furnishing store Magnificent Interiors is closing.
If you're hoping to save some money as stores clear out their merchandise, I have some tips to share.
As savvy shoppers know, not all sales offer the best prices available, and sale merchandise is only a good deal if you need it to begin with. Discounts typically get deeper as the closing date approaches, but the selection of merchandise gets sparse along the way.
Tip: Grocery store sales and markdowns start on Wednesdays. Look for the largest discounts on non-grocery merchandise.
At the Mount Pleasant Bi-Lo, in Sweetgrass Corner Shopping Center, a clearance sale started Wednesday with markdowns of 10 percent to 20 percent for most items, and 40 percent for other merchandise, including toys and pet supplies.
The shelves were full and the traffic was light when I visited, but that will change as the discounts increase. As the store's March 25 closing date nears, expect larger price cuts to arrive on Wednesdays — the day most grocery stores begin their weekly promotions and sales.
When Piggly Wiggly closed some stores years ago, it launched large discounts right away — and the result was dramatic. Lines stretched from the cash registers to the meat counter in the back, and one store I visited then ran out of grocery carts.
This is how I described that going-out-of-business sale at a Piggly Wiggly on James Island in 2013, where everything in the store was half-price:
"Shoppers descended on the meat aisle like locusts on a corn field. The beer cases looked like several bus loads of college students on spring break had just paid a visit."
In contrast, initial markdowns at Bi-Lo represent modest savings for people who regularly shop there, who can now save at least 10 percent on everything in their cart. But if you're a shopper who takes advantage of sales and half-price deals, you might be disappointed. I saw an $11.99 bottle of wine that would have been 20 percent off, but I bought the same wine at Harris Teeter last week for five bucks.
At the Payless store on Rivers Avenue, most shoes were 30 percent off (some, more) on Friday, and although the selection was limited, the shelves were still pretty full. The stock for young children was particularly good, and that's a savings opportunity, because toddlers can outgrow shoes in months.
With all going-out-of-business sales, discounts come with trade-offs. They can include limited selection, a prohibition on coupons, and no-return policies.
If a store you patronize is closing, gift cards and store credits could become worthless if not used quickly. Payless, for example, is giving customers until March 11 to redeem any gift cards or credits, according to the company's website.
Payless has two stores in North Charleston and one in Summerville — they are among more than 2,300 Payless stores in the U.S. and Canada that are closing. Note that a West Ashley location, shown on the company's store locator, actually closed in 2017.
In West Ashley, Magnificent Interiors on S.C. Highway 61 is advertising markdowns of 40 to 70 percent as the retail store prepares to close. Nearby, the Hocus Pocus costume shop is not closing but it's running a tempting clearance sale.
If you love dressing up, for Halloween or even Christmas, Hokus Pokus is clearing out its stock of rental costumes and Christmas items, with half-price discounts. Now's your chance to plan ahead and save on a Halloween costume, Santa suit or "sexy elf" outfit.